ASCL warns school funding boost will be eaten up by government promises and rising costs

ASCL today warns that almost all of the extra £7.1 billion pledged for schools over the next three years will be eaten up by government spending commitments and increased costs.
Our calculations show that only £300 million will be left over to reverse the school cuts which have taken place since 2015.  ASCL estimates that this is at least £1.1 billion short of what is needed.

Divided between some 21,000 state-funded schools in England the £300 million equates to about £14,000 per school – less than a third of the cost of a teacher.

Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “This is nowhere near enough to restore the courses, extra-curricular activities and pupil support services cut since 2015, or to reverse rising class sizes. We are not arguing with the spending commitments made by the government. Our point is that this pot of money is not enough to deliver all the promises it has made and also reverse the education cuts.1

ASCL’s calculations are contained in our submission to the Treasury ahead of the Budget on March 11. 

A forecast growth in pupil numbers will cost £1 billion 2, and general inflation a further £2.4 billion. The government’s proposal to increase teacher starting salaries to £30,000 by 2022/23 will absorb another £2.3 billion. It has also committed £780 million to high needs provision, and £300 million to ‘levelling up’ the worst-funded schools.

Taken together these costs amount to £6.78 billion – leaving only £300 million to reverse the cuts. We are urging the government to provide funding for its proposed increase to teacher starting salaries separately and in addition to the £7.1 billion already committed to schools.

In addition, the £7.1 billion is for 5-16 education and high needs provision only. It does not cover post-16 education – i.e. school sixth forms, sixth form colleges, and FE colleges. 

The funding rate for 16 and 17-year-old students has been frozen at £4,000 per student per year since 2013 – causing massive financial pressures in this important phase of education 3. The government has announced an increase to £4,188 per student in 2020/21. While this is welcome it is a long way short of what is needed. ASCL is calling for the funding rate to be raised to at least £4,760 per student and then annually in line with inflation.

Our submission also calls for more money for high needs provision – which supports young people with special educational needs and disabilities. The government has committed an extra £780 million in 2020/21 but this is not enough to address a £1.2 billion projected deficit in 2021.


1 The percentage of secondary school pupils in large classes of more than 30 has risen from 9.6% in 2015 to 13% in 2019. Source: Department for Education. Schools, pupil and their characteristics: January 2019. (Table 7a)

2 The total number of pupils in state-funded schools is forecast to increase from 7.71 million in 2019 to 7.95 million in 2023 – a rise of 239,000 pupils. Source: Department for Education. National pupil projections: July 2018 (2019 update). 

3 The Institute for Fiscal Studies, in its 2019 annual report on education spending in England, said: “Further education colleges and sixth forms have faced the largest cuts in recent years. Between 2010–11 and 2018–19, spending per student fell by 12% in real terms in 16–18 colleges and by 23% in school sixth forms.